Many older buildings have a distinctive character sorely lacking in more modern, anodyne constructions, and purchasing old buildings for renovation or repurposing can be a very lucrative business. Unfortunately, dealing with older buildings also means dealing with older building materials, and one outdated building material stands out as being particuarly troublesome to deal with -- asbestos.
Most people are aware of the severe health problems caused by long-term exposure to asbestos, and any building that was constructed during its heydey as an insulation material should be thoroughly inspected and cleaned of all asbestos traces. However, not all asbestos present in older buildings is used in its pure form, and asbestos cement, a material once considered excellent for gutter construction, can be particularly challenging to deal with.
What is asbestos cement, and why should asbestos cement gutters be removed?
Asbestos cement is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; sheets of conventional cement which are reinforced with strong, rigid asbestos fibres. These fibres were added to the cement to provide extra strength and durability, and are relatively harmless when left undisturbed.However, any damage sustained by a piece of asbestos cement, including simple everyday wear and tear, can cause it to release asbestos particles into the air. If inhaled, these particles can deal severe damage to the lungs and increase your risk of developing certain cancers.
As you can imagine, this makes asbestos cement guttering a particularly hazardous prospect. Impact damage caused by falling tree branches, roofing tiles and other objects can release large plumes of carcinogenic asbestos fibres into the atmosphere in and around your building, but even something as non-threatening as a heavy rainstorm can provoke the release of these dangerous particles. This also makes asbestos cement gutters very difficult to clean safely, as pressure washers and hoses can also cause asbestos particles to be released.
How should I have my asbestos gutters removed?
The first step towards safely removing asbestos cement gutters from your building is ascertaining whether your gutters are actually made from asbestos cement. Since asbestos cement has a very similar appearance to conventional cement, a material rarely used for gutter construction, almost any 20th century building with cement gutters should be a suspected asbestos risk. However, if you are unsure, laboratory testing services and professional inspectors can help you know for sure whether your gutters contain asbestos fibres.
If your gutters do turn out to be made from asbestos cement, they should be removed as swiftly as possible before they can do any damaged. This means calling in a professional asbestos removal service, ideally one that specialises in the removal of asbestos cement fixtures. These services come equipped with the knowledge, experience and protective equipment necessary to remove asbestos cement gutters safely, and will thoroughly cleanse your building of any leftover asbestos particles or deposits once the gutters have been safely disposed of.